Read reflections and testimonies written by Holocaust survivors in their own words.
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Torte of Many Memories
October 7, 2022
I am not good at changing tires, ice skating, or mending socks. What I am good at is baking, especially my signature dish, which is a walnut torte. Since I was a young girl, I was helping my mother with the torte: chopping the walnuts, watching how she mixed the eggs with sugar until they became almost white, and marveling at the egg whites when they became white and frothy and almost doubled in size. Then we would mix everything together, bake it, and after an hour, a beautiful, wonderfully smelling cake would come out from the oven. I felt a great closeness with my mother at that moment and appreciated that she introduced me to a wonderful world of baking.
October 22, 2020
I never had a chance to ask the four questions that are traditionally asked by the youngest person at the Passover Seder table. Neither have I had a chance to earn a dollar by being the first to find the Afikoman. I was already 40 years old when I first attended a family Seder in Baltimore with my aunt, uncle, and cousins.
Vienna Chanukah 1938
November 14, 2018
The first day of Chanukah fell on December 23, just 42 days after the infamous “Night of Broken Glass” (Kristallnacht). That night most of Vienna’s synagogues were torched, Jewish stores were looted and decimated, many homes were broken into, and men were beaten and in some cases arrested and taken to concentration camps. That night was still fresh in memories when the decision was made, nevertheless, to go along with the Chanukah celebration and pageant for which so many of us had rehearsed.
November 14, 2018
There is an ancient Jewish belief that there are seven imaginary, mystical guests, called Ushpizin in Aramaic, who visit families on Sukkot, the Festival of Tabernacles that commemorates the protection afforded by the Eternal as the Israelites wandered the desert. The guests, one for each day of the holiday, are said to be the biblical figures Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David. Each is invited in turn, with a prayer formulated by 16th-century Kabbalists, to join the family in the sukkah, the temporary shelter built of natural materials that is at the heart of the holiday.
My Paternal Grandparents
November 13, 2018
My maternal Bubbe and Zeyde (Yiddish for grandmother and grandfather) died before I was born, so I want to write about the grandparents who I knew—my father’s parents.
November 1, 2017
My paternal grandfather was a tall, kind, handsome man with a sweet smile and a beautiful beard. I was about seven years old when he died, but my memory of his funeral is very clear. The whole street was full of people paying their respects to him. He was an ombudsman after he retired from his business career. My grandmother was not very tall. She was also always smiling, but she was a very strict woman who also had her own business. We spent all the holidays at my grandparents’ table. The extended family was large, and so was the table.
The Kiddush Cup
November 1, 2011
It was always the same. Ushering the Sabbath, my father held the silver kiddush cup in the flat palm of his hand with his thumb resting against the brim of the cup, his head held high, eyes half closed as he recited the blessing over the wine. We all took a sip from the cup. That, together with all the other festive traditional activities, was carried out in proper order. Any bystander would have thought this was just an ordinary Friday night in a Jewish home. So it would have seemed. But I am sure that both our parents’ hearts were breaking. My sister and I were leaving for England on the following Tuesday. This would be our last Sabbath dinner together. Although we thought that we would soon be reunited, our parents knew the difficulties that lay ahead. And indeed, it was the last Sabbath meal we shared.
November 1, 2011
I was very fortunate to have had a happy childhood. The memories of my childhood kept me going during the terrible war. My childhood was just beautiful. I received a great deal of love and caring from both my parents and grandparents.
Looking for My Father
September 17, 2006
I know my father, Adolf Rosenfeld, was born in 1898 in Korb, Germany. Korb is a very small place. He apprenticed as a baker when he was a young teenager. During World War I he was in the army. During his service in the war he lost a leg. Consequently, when he returned to Korb after the war, he could not work as a baker.